Fellow blogger and HPC smart guy Joe Landman (if I know smart people that makes me smart, too) has an article up at Linux Mag, “Computing In The Clouds: Setting Expectations” that addresses the potential role for clouds in HPC
Which means that to minimize your cost to stand up your infrastructure you should select your OS and software appropriately. Yes, you will have TCO costs. As Cloud Computing focuses on the producer side in terms of time/effort to stand up the applications, Cloud Computing is curiously also a TCO reduction play. Drive your TCO so low that the marginal cost of adding the additional capacity is the majority of the cost over the lifetime of the system and make management as simple as possible.
…Of course, everything comes at a price, and in this case, the marginal cost benefits you gain come at the cost of control over the hardware. You no longer have this box sitting next to you, or even in “your” data center. Which is in part, why Richard Stallman noted in an interview:
“that Cloud Computing was simply a trap aimed at forcing more people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that would cost them more and more over time.”
Ah, Stallman. The ultimate cranky computer guy. Joe’s article runs through the business cases for cloud computing for Regular IT folks, and for HPC people (hey, that’s you). He concludes these observations, which I think are spot on
The opportunity for HPC in in the Cloud brings us full circle to the fundamental reason for Cloud Computing — low cost of entry. Computers in the clouds may not be the fastest systems you can buy, but they offer a very low cost to start using them. For HPC, this can be significant. Remember, ISVs want your hardware cost to be as low as possible, so that you have more money in your declining budgets for their product offerings. If you can avoid paying the initial up-front costs to get the systems, and simply start using them, you can (potentially) be more productive.
…It is not a foregone conclusion that Cloud Computing will be successful in HPC. It has been tried before with different names. And it has failed, badly. What is different now? Economics, computing power, and bandwidth. Economics make it easy and inexpensive to scale up what are effectively disposable computing elements. Computing power has followed Moore’s law for the most part. And there is significantly more bandwidth available to end users, though many (correctly) argue that it isn’t growing fast enough for them.